Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.
Peking, February 28, 1889. (Received April 15.)
Sir: The Empress Regent Tzi An will on the 4th of March next retire from active participation in governmental affairs.
Her retirement furnishes a proper occasion for a brief review of her life and character, and of some of the important events of her reign. The Emperor Hsien-fung died August 22, 1861, five months after the British envoy was installed at Peking. He left one son of the age of five years, named T’ung-chih.
The widowed Empress, Tzu An, associated with Tzi An, then jointly assumed the reins of power. Tzi An was the mother of T’ung-chih. She was the secondary wife of Hsien-fung. Prince Kung organized the Tsung-li Yamên, and became its head.
During the reign of T’ung-chih the Government succeeded in putting down the great Tai Ping rebellion, in quelling the Mahommedan insurrections in Yunnan and Kansuh, and in opening diplomatic relations with foreign powers.
T’ung-chih died in January, 1875, without issue. His cousin, Kuangsii, son of the seventh son of Tao-Kuang, Prince Chun, who was born August 15, 1871, was selected by the present Empress Regent to be Emperor, and succeeded T’ung-chih.
The Empress Regent, Tzu An, died in 1881. Since her death the Empress Regent, Tzi An, has been the sole ruler of China until the present time, when she voluntary abandons the reins of government. Once before she made an effort to retire, but was induced by the earnest prayer of the chief mandarins to remain at the head of affairs.
The principal event in the reign of Kuang-sii is the reconquest of western Kansuh, Sungaria, Kuldja, and Kashgaria. A Mohammedan rebellion broke out in those provinces in 1862, and Russia, fearing disturbance in her own borders, crossed over and occupied Kuldja in 1871. In 1867 a soldier of fortune from Khokand, called Yakub Beg, made himself master of Kashgar. In 1876 China succeeded, after a bloody war, in re-asserting her power. Russia finally evacuated Tli, and in 1881, by the treaty of St. Petersburg, restored to China the territory she had seized, upon the payment of one million and one-half sterling.
In 1884 difficulties originated between the French and China over the French occupation of Tonquin and Annam. A desultory war ensued, during which the French destroyed the shipping and ports at Foochow. They also occupied Kelung, in Formosa, but they were beaten at Tamsui. In 1885 the French were beaten at Langson. Then peace was made. China recognized the French protectorate over Annam and the possession of Tonquin, but paid no indemnity.
Between England and China the most celebrated event was the murder of a British officer named Margary, in 1875, who had been sent to Yunnan to meet an exploring party sent by the Indian Government to Burmah. In.1876 the Chinese agreed to pay an indemnity to Mr. Marga-ry’s family, and to compel their local officials to protect foreigners with passports. China agreed also to facilitate the dispatch of a British mission to Shassa. England agreed to the opium convention, which finally resulted in amalgamating lekin and import duties at 80 taels per chest.
In 1885 England took possession of Upper Burmah, but agreed in 1886, however, that the authorities in Burmah should send to China [Page 100] every ten years a present of local produce in charge of a native official. England agreed also not to press the Thibet mission clause of the Che-foo convention. In 1887 England surrendered to China Port Hamilton, a Corean island which she had seized and fortified.
On the whole the relations between China and Japan have been friendly, though on several occasions there has been danger of serious complications between the two countries.
Between China and the United States international affairs are too well known to require any mention. Additional articles were added in 1868 to our treaty of 1858, and in 1880 the immigration and commercial treaty was made. In the general, China has observed the articles of these treaties.
There have been, owing to sudden outbreaks of the populace, riots here and there which have resulted in injury to property, and very rarely and in a small degree to persons. These riots are severely condemned by the Imperial Government and reparation has been usually made. It may be said, with emphasis, that the Empress Regent has been the first of her race to apprehend the problem of the relation of China to the outer world and to make use of this relation so as to strengthen her dynasty and to promote material progress. The imperial maritime customs service which was first inaugurated to provide means to pay damages claimed by foreigners has become, under the control of Sir Robert Hart, a great fiscal institution. It has provided in the most complete manner for the lighting of the coast of China, has fostered navigation, and has produced great revenues.
During this reign a fine navy has been created, and the army has been largely improved. The electric telegraph now covers the laud. Arsenals and ship-yards have been located at Foochow, Shanghai, Canton, Taku, and Port Arthur. Western methods of mining have been introduced and two lines of railway have been built. Steamers ply on all the principal rivers. The study of mathematics has been revived and the physical sciences have been introduced into the competitive examinations. The treatment of the progress of education, in which our own countrymen have largely figured, would require a separate article. Almost as soon as the foreign office was organized it memorialized the throne advising the establishment of a school for the training of official interpreters. This resulted in the establishment of the Tung Wen Kuan College in 1862. This institution is presided over by Dr. W. A. P. Martin, an American, with a full corps of foreign and native professors. The great statesmen of China, such men as Li Hung Chang, and Tseng Kuo Fan, have always favored the introduction of Western learning.
In 1872 China sent a large detachment of boys to the United States to be educated. They were recalled in 1881. To-day there are colleges and schools of the highest order all over China, under the control of missionaries of various countries. Our own countrymen are at the front of this work.
The improvement and progress above briefly sketched are mainly due to the will and the power of the Empress Regent. To her own people she has been kind and merciful, and to foreigners she has been just. She leaves her country at peace with all the world, and destined by her influence to grasp the benefactions of foreign intercourse, and to assume a commanding place among the nations of the earth. While her own people will always venerate and bless her, history will rank her among the greatest rulers of mankind.
I have, etc.,